The Catch-22 of Gun Training – Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

I went a bit ballistic on Facebook recently after I started seeing people posting and re-posting and commenting approvingly on a story that appeared in many media outlets — including the NY Times, PBS, and most graphically (and unsurprisingly) the NY Daily News.

As a level-headed Canadian friend of mine pointed out, the actual body of the PBS News Hour story I referenced on Facebook included a good bit of information about the program, the funding, how it ran, who it served, and left the interpretation up to the reader.

So maybe my gripe is about the headline writers who play on biases and the culture of fear to drum up viewers and readers.

ThinkProgress’s headline clearly suggests an intentional link between the NRA’s donation and training the Parkland shooter. Of course, sites like ThinkProgress make no bones about the fact that they practice advocacy journalism, but its sad when all media come to look the same.

Here are my two main problems with this storyline:

(1) If people have a problem with the NRA donating to JROTC programs because they are training people to become “better at killing through refining marksmanship” (as a friend put it), then they have a lot of problems because there’s a lot of this kind of thing going on. There are the military and law enforcement, of course, notorious for their gun training. Spree killer Christopher Dorner, for example, was taught to shoot by the US Navy Reserve and LAPD.

People pointing fingers at these youth shooting programs also need to help explain why more of these trained killers aren’t doing what they’ve been trained to do. I have not analyzed the training backgrounds of many mass killers, but I know in terms of everyday homicide most of those killers have nothing to do with the NRA or other formal gun training outlets.

I know people outside gun culture often have no idea that high schools even have rifle teams, but instead of imagining a mass shooter when you hear “rifle team,” imagine something like this: The NCAA Rifle Championships.

Screen cap from

(2) The issue of training also becomes a bit of a Catch-22. People complain about how the NRA has departed from its original purpose as a marksmanship organization, but when it performs that original role, it gets dinged too.

Even more, many people call for MANDATORY TRAINING as part of the requirements for gun ownership or concealed carry, but if someone who receives that training ends up committing a criminal homicide, will we blame the mandatory training for making them more lethal?

The reality is that gun training makes most people safer with guns most of the time. But once this reality gets pulled into the world of gun politics, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


  1. Professor Yamane,

    Excellent point, one that we also noticed after the Dallas police shooting in 2016 (pretty sure it was that one…they do blend a bit). That guy had attended someone’s “tactical school”, and so it was at least mentioned in passing in the press how he was more deadly. Nuts!


    Liked by 3 people

  2. I was on the high school rifle club but not the team. Long story; not for today.

    Of course Charles Whitman, the UT tower mass shooter, was taught marksmanship by the US Marines. I suppose plenty of arraigned drivers took high school driver ed, too. So I can blame anything I do wrong behind the wheel on Mr. Patterson?

    Most of what is being put out by social media right now is pure bullshit and organizations like Think Progress (or for that matter, the NRA’s media featuring Dana Loesch) have no qualms about their ends justifying “any means necessary”. Its not just Russian troll factories polluting the media.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. NY Daily News. They were partially liberal at one time, when I used to walk to the corner newsstand and get the two cent night owl edition for my father. Then the paper went conservative, and it was known as the “Daily Noose”, as the older people pronounced it, and us high school kids used to say it was because the paper was always hanging somebody (with a chuckle). Then the paper went liberal. Then it went leftist liberal. I would say that it is fishwrap, but there are no fish markets in the city anymore. So the paper lines pet cages.

    Considering whether one is damned if they do or damned if they don’t, it reminded me of what my father spoke of, namely D-Day. He was 82d Airborne. Well, they did. All of them. There was a terrible price to be paid. In the US, the coddled ones were saying it was impossible. I tried not to get into debates with my father, because there was no reasoning with a guy who went from D-Day to VE-Day with an M1 Garand in his hands. FDR said it best [1], and it applies to the constant attacks on firearms and owners of firearms, “[…] The harder the sacrifice, the more glorious the triumph.”


    Liked by 1 person

  4. And many of those calling for mandatory training also call for limits ammunition purchases. New York legislators called for a limit of two magazine’s worth of ammo per 90 days, or about 48 rounds per year for many small pistols. Get all the training you can with your 15 minutes of ammo!

    Mandatory background checks for ammo purchases also adds cost and discourages training.

    Liked by 3 people

    • 48 rds per year? We just had a gas station attendant shot dead in cold blood down in Albuquerque. 47 rounds to spare, eh, New York Legislators?

      Indeed, on a slow day at the range, 50 rds disappears fast.An NRA Precision pistol competition is 30 rds/300 pts. Per gun.I think there are at least two guns required, IIRC.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. David

    I agree that the headlines are deceiving. Probably because many don’t read beyond headlines.

    Please help me understand how we can explain safety training to the uninitiated or uninterested people. I truly want to do better at it.

    From my view, gun safety training is as desirable as many mandatory school subjects: fire safety, driving safety, safe sex, illy get drug avoidance, etc. So many things that are presented in elementary school. It’s logically consistent in my view to teach an Eddie Eagle class to elementary school kids and offer programs in safe firearms use to teens. Safety.

    I also understand Yellow Journalism to promote preferred policy. Nothing wrong with that. Freedom of speech is good. I’m not asking for balance. Just a better way to make the argument to fellow parents. For me, it really is a safety issue where ignorance can have catastrophic consequences.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I just finished reading Alexandria Kincaid’s “Infringed” last night and ironically the last part of the book dealt, in part, with training. She commented that she has often received comments from her trainee’s that they felt getting training might make them look bad if they had to use that training. Her comment on that was to get all the training you can but don’t talk, especially to police or DA types, about it. If something happens and you have to kill someone in a defensive situation don’t go blabbing about your training. I guess you could say this book has my recommendation.

    Keep your powder dry and your faith in God.


  7. The illinformed media might as well blame the Boy Scouts as well. We teach rifle marksmanship to shoot groups smaller than a quarter, shotguns to hit a moving targets (clay pigeons) and OMG semi automatic pistols with high-ish capacity magazines (ten rounds) in the special shooting sports pilot program. If that wasn’t bad enough we teach older scouts how to make “ghost ammunition” at Philmont Scout Ranch. Hikers load their own 12 gauge shot shells and “high powered” 30.06 rifle cartridges which they then fire from bolt action “sniper style” rifles.


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